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MechEngVic

NEW or NOS?

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A comment in an earlier post got me thinking about this subject. 

 

I can only speak of my very limited experience with new vs nos tubes, and offer some thoughts, but I'd to hear from other tube gear owners.

 

I think we can all agree that there is a preference for the old famous tubes of yore, but we also know that NOS it a term used loosely by some sellers and we don't always get what we paid for. And, I believe that new production tubes have suffered in their reputation for reliability by new production problems, and many say they don't match the sound quality of the old. I think that mostly covers the controversies in a broad stroke.

 

Well at this point, having used new production tubes for a couple of years only, I can't really speak to the reliability of them, other than I have only experienced one failure in about two dozen new tubes. But NOS tubes, from several sources, even reputable ones, have had about a 1 in 5 failure rate within a short time of initial use. I've bought at least 50 NOS tubes in the last several years. Models of new and NOS tubes include: EL-34, KT-88, 6V6, 12AX7 and its derivatives, 6GH8A and its derivatives, 6C4P-EV, 5U4G, and a few others I can't remember. 

 

Except for the Blackburn-made Amperex 6GH8A's (the best sounding tube I have ever heard), the new production tubes have sounded better IMO. Now, granted, I have not spent a grand on a quad of NOS Mullard EL-34's, but I did buy a NOS set of SED Svetlana EL-34's, and the truth is, an 80.00$ quad of New production Mullard's sounded just as good at almost 1/3 the cost.

 

Here's what I think: Reliability issues with new production tubes will soon, if not already, be a thing of the past. Tube makers are working out the kinks, and they can probably do it more efficiently than could be done in the past. And because new tubes are almost exclusively used for sound reproduction, the focus is on sound quality. That was not the case in the past. And finally, given enough demand, new tube sound quality will surpass that of any and all old production tubes. Something to think about the next time you have to buy: Buying new supports new tube development and improvement.

 

I, for one, would love to see to what new levels of sound quality and reliability new tubes could be taken, by scrutinizing the old designs we love with modern testing methods and remaking them with improved production capabilities.

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I appreciate your optimism and I hope it becomes a reality but not yet. I've not met a modern production 6DJ8, 12AU7, 12AX7, or 12AT7 that can compare to old school Siemens, Telefunken, Amperex, or Mullard. Not even on the same planet. Then there are rectifiers... Please find me a modern replacement for an amperex or mullard GZ34. The ones I've tried have not gone well. Just don't use them. I call them sparklers.  Don't even get me started on a modern EL84 or EL37... Sigh.... The list goes on. I hope modern tubes keep improving but they aren't there yet...

 

Then there are the triodes... There are some decent modern 2a3 and 300b out there. This might be where the most energy has been spent to get decent modern equivalents.

 

The reason old tubes command the price and respect is because they are awesome and from the glory days of Hi-Fi.  Do not ever trust a tube as NOS unless you find it and are the first to pull it from the box yourself. I've only been that lucky a few times. Seriously it took 50 to 80 years for tube knowledge to evovle. It is foolish to think we can just recreate that knowledge base in a short time... But I want to believe it will get there. Will it ever best Western Electric or Eimac...... NO....

 

 

 

 

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 I feel the original poster is " right on the money".  And what was not said was that the tube manufacturers are also now building for the GUITAR group, so there is much progress and incentive for them.

 

Yes, I can HEAR the virtues of NOS tubes, but that does not make me want to design with them, or use them.  They are impractical to obtain, and it will only get worse into the future.

 

I just designed an amp for my own system using the latest Electro Harmonix KT88, a tube which has been upgraded by EH recently for the guitar boys. 

 

KT88s cost me less than $90 a MATCHED Pair from Antique Electronic Sound.  About a month or so ago,  I A-Bed my new KT88 design, VS the best-EVER-made NOS 2A3 tube : the AVVT Mesh Plate 2A3, ( goes for $3,500 a pair, considered as "the holy grail" in 2A3s ).  The NEW KT88 was able to outperform the NOS AVVT ( which was in an excellent pair of 2A3 amps ). 

 

Of course, this was NOT due to tube differences alone.

 

My point is, if someone is skilled, and has ambition, passion, an experienced DIYer, they can design and build an amp with carefully selected  NEW tubes -  to out-perform any "holy grail " NOS AVVT 2A3 tube.    How ??    Simple - by incorporating design topologies, and thoughtful implementations, using NEW tubes.   

 

IMHO, that makes it useless to LUST for unobtainable NOS AVVT 2A3 Mesh Plate tubes, etc.  Its the dead-end path.

 

With well-thought-out DIY, one is UNLIMITED as to new amp design possibilities they can apply, to improve overall a tube amplifier's performance

 

DIYers can be unconcerned about consumer-appeal considerations and limitations that face manufacturers who have to sell their units, VS:  their competition.  One certainly does not need to rely upon " NOS tube rolling " - as the ONLY means to obtain acceptable performance.  Superior performance can be had using and designing new amp circuits - with NEW tubes !!  Such a thing as TOTAL amp design - exists !!!

 

One must be selective in their NEW TUBE choices however.  Good and poor ones exist.  I used to prefer the sound of vintage NOS Tung Sol 5U4GBs in my two-stage direct-coupled SETs.  Now, I find a $16.00 NEW EH 5U4GB, after a 75 hour break-in, sounds better to my ears. 

 

We are lucky to have new tubes.  We need to exploit their possibilities to the fullest, in the days or years ahead, by incorporating them into very well-thought-out and innovative tube audio designs.

 

Hurrah, to the original poster !!!

 

Jeffrey Medwin

 

 

 

 

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I have read that the old tubes used far superior materials in the build, contributing to their signature sound. I have a boatload of tubes, both vintage and new production. It can be a crap shoot sometimes to get good vintage tubes, not because the tubes quality is bad, but because unscrupulous sellers are selling junk tubes. I have tubes built in the 40's that sound just wonderful, attesting to their longevity. I run vintage tubes in all my tube gear, consisting of 4 tube amps and 1 tube preamp, plus a cd player with tubes.

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My experience mirrors seti's. I am also careful to buy only from well-known sources. 

SSH

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38 minutes ago, kevinmi said:

I have read that the old tubes used far superior materials in the build, contributing to their signature sound. I have a boatload of tubes, both vintage and new production. It can be a crap shoot sometimes to get good vintage tubes, not because the tubes quality is bad, but because unscrupulous sellers are selling junk tubes. I have tubes built in the 40's that sound just wonderful, attesting to their longevity. I run vintage tubes in all my tube gear, consisting of 4 tube amps and 1 tube preamp, plus a cd player with tubes.

 

I'm not sure it is fair to compare modern tube industry of then to now. In the hey day of tube production the industry was absolutely huge and had enormous R&D budgets. The communications indiustry just poured money into tube technology. It just isn't a fair comparison. Look at what Eimac, RCA, and Western Electric did with tubes.  I will say that EML labs is doing some amazing things with tubes but they are pricey... Elrog is on the way. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, kevinmi said:

I have read that the old tubes used far superior materials in the build, contributing to their signature sound. I have a boatload of tubes, both vintage and new production. It can be a crap shoot sometimes to get good vintage tubes, not because the tubes quality is bad, but because unscrupulous sellers are selling junk tubes. I have tubes built in the 40's that sound just wonderful, attesting to their longevity. I run vintage tubes in all my tube gear, consisting of 4 tube amps and 1 tube preamp, plus a cd player with tubes.

I have bought bad tubes from reputable dealers, and even they will admit it's hard to source true NOS tubes. The best sellers have good tube matching AND a good exchange policy. I think for us tube users that don't have tens of years of experience in finding them and the associated knowledge to do it, it's lucky when we get good ones.

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19 hours ago, seti said:

Deleted

 

 

 

Edited by MechEngVic
Put text in wrong place

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19 hours ago, seti said:

I appreciate your optimism and I hope it becomes a reality but not yet. I've not met a modern production 6DJ8, 12AU7, 12AX7, or 12AT7 that can compare to old school Siemens, Telefunken, Amperex, or Mullard. Not even on the same planet. Then there are rectifiers... Please find me a modern replacement for an amperex or mullard GZ34. The ones I've tried have not gone well. Just don't use them. I call them sparklers.  Don't even get me started on a modern EL84 or EL37... Sigh.... The list goes on. I hope modern tubes keep improving but they aren't there yet...

 

Then there are the triodes... There are some decent modern 2a3 and 300b out there. This might be where the most energy has been spent to get decent modern equivalents.

 

The reason old tubes command the price and respect is because they are awesome and from the glory days of Hi-Fi.  Do not ever trust a tube as NOS unless you find it and are the first to pull it from the box yourself. I've only been that lucky a few times. Seriously it took 50 to 80 years for tube knowledge to evovle. It is foolish to think we can just recreate that knowledge base in a short time... But I want to believe it will get there. Will it ever best Western Electric or Eimac...... NO....

 

 

 

 

I've heard some of those GZ34 horror stories.  I am fascinated in this knowledge base you speak of. Are you saying that the methods which built the best old tubes was some how lost, or not passed on properly? Did the advent of SS make us lose so much interest in tubes that the know-how was deemed irrelevant and discarded? It seems like a great folly in retrospect.

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6 hours ago, MechEngVic said:

I've heard some of those GZ34 horror stories.  I am fascinated in this knowledge base you speak of. Are you saying that the methods which built the best old tubes was some how lost, or not passed on properly? Did the advent of SS make us lose so much interest in tubes that the know-how was deemed irrelevant and discarded? It seems like a great folly in retrospect.

 

I'm just saying that you don't rebuid that kind of knowledge, technique, and tech overnight. Why else can't they build a proper GZ34? Isn't it just a tube? Why can't they duplicate the performance? 

 

Technology just evolved and made things cheaper and easier to build. Just sad it all didn't sound better..

 

 

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https://youtu.be/QCksgN7kiv4

 

The video explains why NOS tubes are the only way to go!  For the past 60 years I have used NOS (of course, most were new stock back in the day!) exclusively and the reliability has been outstanding.  This includes my years doing TV, radio, and audio equipment repairs on units which were often very poorly ventilated.  

 

Maynard

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My problem with NOS is that they are supposed to be New Old Stock.  I think the majority of the time what you actually receive is UOS, Used Old Stock.  I can usually tell just by looking at the pictures of the pins.

 

But I completely agree in the difference in performance if you can manage to get GOOD old stock tubes (new or used).  They are superior for sure.

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On 9/23/2019 at 11:15 AM, seti said:

 

I'm not sure it is fair to compare modern tube industry of then to now. In the hey day of tube production the industry was absolutely huge and had enormous R&D budgets. The communications indiustry just poured money into tube technology. It just isn't a fair comparison. Look at what Eimac, RCA, and Western Electric did with tubes.  I will say that EML labs is doing some amazing things with tubes but they are pricey... Elrog is on the way. 

 

 

 

I use and love EML power and rectifier tubes in my Yamamoto Amp. I keep detailed records of all my tube usage and have good tube testers to confirm ongoing viability and to extrapolate tube life. JAC, uses some of the same tube testers and claims that they should last thousands of hours. We will see if this pans out.

 

Wb

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5 hours ago, Wolfbane said:

 

I use and love EML power and rectifier tubes in my Yamamoto Amp. I keep detailed records of all my tube usage and have good tube testers to confirm ongoing viability and to extrapolate tube life. JAC, uses some of the same tube testers and claims that they should last thousands of hours. We will see of this pans out.

 

Wb

 

I have the EML 45 meshplates and the construction is amazing. I should compare to my stash of vintage 45s.

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, seti said:

 

I have the EML 45 meshplates and the construction is amazing. I should compare to my stash of vintage 45s.

 

 

 

 

 

What amp?

 

I have both the EML 45 Meshplate Balloon tube version and their Solid Plate 45's. Both sound better in my amp than a variety of NOS 45's I've tried. I don't think you'll have trouble hearing the difference between the EML and NOS 45's.

 

Wb

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31 minutes ago, Wolfbane said:

What amp?

 

I have both the EML 45 Meshplate Balloon tube version and their Solid Plate 45's. Both sound better in my amp than a variety of NOS 45's I've tried. I don't think you'll have trouble hearing the difference between the EML and NOS 45's.

 

Wb

 

My 45s aren't NOS but test strong at least.

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On 9/25/2019 at 7:16 PM, Wolfbane said:

What amp?

 

I have both the EML 45 Meshplate Balloon tube version and their Solid Plate 45's. Both sound better in my amp than a variety of NOS 45's I've tried. I don't think you'll have trouble hearing the difference between the EML and NOS 45's.

 

Wb

 

 

Yes, of course, there is no comparison in my opinion between an EML and a Vintage Type 45 tube, and its all in favor of the EML.

 

In 2015 and 2016 I gave NOS or Vintage Type 45s a try in my two-stage direct-coupled amplifier circuit, and was very disappointed.  It was a large waste of my time and money - over two years,  as far as I am concerned.   

 

The standard Type 45 tube can NOT play the lower octaves of a piano with proper power and weight.  The ST Type 45 tube is subjectively thin sounding to my ear.  There also exists a very BROAD but rather SHALLOW suck-out in the middle midrange, extending an octave or so on either side of that, to my ear. 

 

Consider this, in its day, a ST Type 45 tube was a mass produced item, to be used extensively in most manufacturer's AM Radio Receivers.  They built the tube as cheaply as they could mass produce it.  That means less than optimal sized leads, coming off the plates, etc, extending down to the tube pins.   

 

Compare  such construction to a modern day EMLs, where things are beefy.    Pricey EML 45s are not truly necessary to use as the comparison .......... A-B compare any ST Type 45 tube  to a $2.00 used 6AQ5 or a NOS $5.00 GE 6005 - on piano play back  !!  Listen to that, and report back, do tell others what you hear.

 

Jeffrey Medwin 

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^^^ IMHO, RCA made an excellent quality 2A3 ST type tube which sounds really good and puts out 3.5 WPC if you have an amp that can use both 45's and 2A3''s (plate voltage is different if my memory is still working properly on this). The key thing being the 2A3 pair must be very closely matched and test fully new.

 

Less sparkle but more bass with just that little bit more wattage. ^^^

 

Wb

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The standard Type 45 tube can NOT play the lower octaves of a piano with proper power and weight.  The ST Type 45 tube is subjectively thin sounding to my ear.  There also exists a very BROAD but SHALLOW suck-out in the middle midrange, extending an octave or so on either side of that, to my ear. 


 

 

This sounds like a problem with amplifier or speaker design and or pairing or major room problems. I've run old ST and Globe 45's and 2a3 mono and biplate without any of these characteristics. If this was the case I would never run a 45 of any type. Glad I haven't run into these issues.

 

 

 

 

 

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I don't have a dog in the NOS vs new fight.

 

As I write this I'm listening to an amp with NOS Telefunken ECC83 & GE 5814 driver tubes, and new Elrog 300B power tubes, and it sounds great!

 

My question is this -- is anyone making great new 12AU7/ECC82/5814 or 12AX7/ECC83 tubes?  I love my Elrog 300B's, but don't know of anyone making similar quality available in new driver tubes.

 

Thanks!

 

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